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Breathing life back into our towns and cities by adapting and reusing existing spaces

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Matt Stephenson - Associate, Architecture

by Matt Stephenson

Associate, Architecture

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A significant change in the way we live and work has resulted in cities needing to adapt and find new uses for their current building stock - leaving the question, how can we sustainably repurpose our towns and cities in a way that boosts their economies?

The change in work / life patterns means that office use and retail demand is falling, and as a result, more and more buildings are becoming vacant.

Reusing and upcycling empty buildings in city centres presents an ideal opportunity to reset our cities, help to regenerate local economies and support businesses that depend on foot traffic.

The recent demise of many big retail chains has left a visible mark on our high streets, with a clear lack of life and energy in city centres that we once experienced and enjoyed.

To help breathe life back into the high street, we are exploring new and innovative ways we can reoccupy the spaces, not only at ground level but throughout the entire building to reveal their true potential.

There are a whole range of benefits to this strategy, significantly in reducing the amount of embodied carbon that would otherwise be used in the construction of new buildings. The level of construction waste is reduced and a readymade infrastructure is already in place.

Leeds Maths School Exterior View FINAL Without Logo copy

A prime example of where we are repurposing vacant yet culturally significant buildings is evidenced in our ongoing project, Leeds Maths School.

The project includes the creative reuse of the former Yorkshire Building Society Headquarters, to form a new post-16 school in the heart of the city centre.

Its aspiration is to provide students with a more mature and well-rounded learning experience within an exciting city location which will better prepare them as they approach life and work following their studies.

Its prime location on The Headrow means the new school is well-connected to the city’s top universities, whilst making it easier for postgraduate students to teach there. The school will also welcome students from a wider area across West Yorkshire, with train and bus stations just a ten minute walk away.

You can read more about the project here.


At our practice, we are passionate about sustainably regenerating spaces to revitalise towns, cities and communities. You can learn more about this by reading our thoughts on regeneration here.

Posted on:

May 2nd 2023

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